I discovered a lot of great creators thanks to the Comics Lab’s Experiment. One of them is the creator of the webcomic La Grande Bretêche. It’s 7 questions with… Clare Foley.
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
My first published comic was the one page piece I did for the ‘Experiment’ zine! This was a collaboration of several talented people in The Comics Lab, and you can find it online free here: http://issuu.com/straylines/docs/stray-lines-experiment-sept-2015
I’m very new to this world. I did some small comics for college projects when I was studying Illustration in BCFE, but the zine is the first actual collaboration that was actually printed up.
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
I haven’t had a chance to learn from my mistakes just yet, haha. In terms of the Experiment comic, it was a great way to get out there, as a first step. It was definitely a great exercise in collaborative work, and getting to meet lots of interesting artists through that. The struggle that all illustrators seem to have is between keeping your vision true, and also trying to please the publisher/writer/editor. The projects I’m working on now are all just me, so I haven’t really run into that issue yet. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it… It’s a great luxury right now to be able to work on my own project that I adore!
What’s your process for writing/drawing a comic book?
For this question, I’m going to go through the process I went through to get to the finished art of my current project, ‘La Grande Bretêche’. I took the initial short story (by Honore de Balzac) and began to read it and chop out any unnecessary text. I was really ruthless with this, as I dreaded ending up with a big wordy comic. I then started with very VERY loose thumbnails on a page, of roughly where the action and text would happen, just to figure out the pacing.
This particular project involved a lot of odd clothes and props, as it is set in 1850. I am confident at composition and lighting in photography. My friends very kindly humoured me by dressing up in 1850’s garb and “acted out” my scenes in stills, with me fiddling with the lighting and composition of each shot. I took over 1000 photos for this section.
After this, I moved on and began to choose the photos I liked best, and arranged them as panels on the pages. Some pages stayed true to the initial thumbnails (with the photos being shot-for-shot) but others strayed completely from where I initially thought. I kept the initial thumbnailing very loose because I wanted the strength of the photographs to act as a compositional aid too.
I then moved on to the actual painting. After settling on a media (watercolour and pencil), I set to work doing a light trace of the scene from the photograph. This helps when I begin the watercolours, so I can block out sections. I don’t like to draw directly onto the page until the watercolour is entirely finished, I like to let the paint guide the drawing rather than the other way around. There isn’t much rhyme or reason as to how I paint the pages… Light to dark in layers of wash is a good rule of thumb, but I’m way too impatient to do that a lot of the time.
After the painting is finished, I draw small areas in pencil over it, and then trace any text (from a font) to get that slightly hand-lettered feel without going freehand.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
For me, anything that captures a certain feeling, that really pulls you in to that particular world… That’s what I’m aiming for in any of my work: to be drawn in to a distinct mood, to really feel like you know that world. Movies have always captivated me, some of my favorites in terms of mood and inspiration have to be ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘Only God Forgives’, ‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Kontroll’, ‘Waltz with Bashir’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Moon’.
For artists: Andrew Salgado, Pat Perry, Yuko Shimizu, Ralph Steadman, Caravaggio, Anthony Micallef, Gustave Dore, Harry Ally, Dante Gabriel Rosetti…
Even just some old photos can be wonderfully inspiring. Lee Miller’s photographs of WWII, or bizarre old portraits picked up in markets. And of course comic books… Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ series was the first really kick into the comics world, and I adored it. Craig Thompson’s ‘Blankets’ remains my favorite love story of all time. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s ‘From Hell’ is complex and stunning, a really beautiful read (and a must for drawing an 19th century comic). In fact, most things by Alan Moore. Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’, a masterpiece, no description necessary. Charles Burns’ ‘Black Hole’, and incredibly disturbing and beautifully illustrated work. Shaun Tan, ‘The Arrival’. Will Eisner, the ‘Contract With God’ trilogy… I know I’m just listing the greats here, but I love them all.
The Comics Workbook on Tumblr is also an incredible resource for finding more indie stuff… I’m not even going to go into what interesting found on here, we’d be here all night.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am focusing completely on ‘La Grande Bretêche’. One day 3 1/2 years ago I picked up a book of short horror and suspense stories, and there was one by Honore de Balzac in there called ‘La Grande Bretêche’. I was blown away. I wasn’t even particularly interested in illustration at the time, but I instantly thought “I want to make a comic out of this”. Right now it’s only in webcomic form, and I update it Wednesday and Sunday. There’s still a lot of work to do on it, I’m only a little over halfway through. But it’s wonderful, I’m loving every second of its creation. It’s a real labour of love, something I’ve been slowly working on for a long time.
What do you have out now or coming out next?
Ideally, I’d like to get a print version of ‘La Grande Bretêche’ out there, by self-publishing or trying to find a publisher who’d take it. Other than that, in January I’m printing a fun little illustrated zine about my favorite American con man. It’s called ‘The Notorious Joseph Weil’ and it’s just me fangirling about this fabulous trickster (who really needs to have a full book illustrated about him and all his hilarious stunts. One day, when I have time…). He’s a hilarious person, and I’ve created a lot of fun illustrations about him, so I thought it’d be nice to make a zine about him.
What is your favourite Irish comic?
Oh, there is so much interesting stuff going on right now… Because I’m making one myself, I’ve been seeking out some interesting webcomics by Irish creators. Brian Coldrick has one of my absolute favorites on Tumblr, called ‘Behind You’, which is absolutely stunning! It really blew me away. Amanda Spitzner’s wonderfully funny “Exploding Comics” is an absolute must! Not born here, but Irish in spirit. ‘Splitting Borders’ by Gareth Gorwan and Sadhbh Lawlor is really lovely, experimental and throught provoking. I found these two at Indiependents Day. ‘Azure Capricorn’ by Triona Farrell is a new find for me, a wonderfully exotic, imaginative comic.
Of course I love seeing people working traditionally too. Some wonderful finds at the zine fair: Sarah Bowie’s wonderfully full pencil illustrations for ‘Mall Life’, Paddy Lynch’s ‘Last Bus’, Philip Barrett’s ‘In Bits’ collection…
And of course all the very very cool stuff that’s going on in The Comics Lab! This monthly meetup really is so worthwhile, GO ALONG AND SEE IT. A really huge thank you goes out to all the folks there, Especially Sarah Bowie and Debbie Jenkinson (incidentally, can’t wait to secure a copy of ‘Remorse’, which looks incredible), who have been so encouraging and supportive of so many, including myself.